Local veterans visit WWII memorial: Veterans also met with former Senator Bob Dole

SAN DIEGO - A group of local veterans was in Washington D.C. this weekend, visiting the World War II memorial.

On Saturday, they were joined by a special guest who has championed for veterans and who was instrumental in the construction of the memorial.

"It's nice being pampered because that's what happens … they're pampering us on a continuous basis," said Norm Hapke.

He says he feels fortunate to have been part of Honor Flight San Diego. He and 79 other World War II veterans were in Washington D.C. visiting the memorial made especially for them.

"It just feels good being there," Hapke said.

While there, they met a very special friend, former Senator Bob Dole.

"I congratulated him … and I said, 'You know, you started all this and I think it's great that you did,'" said Hapke.

Dole and his wife Elizabeth spent time with the group from San Diego and posed for several photos with them.

Hapke said being at the memorial brought back a flood of old memories he had tucked away. They were memories of his 37 missions flying B-17's from England into Germany in 1944.

"Thinking back to being in Europe and some of the missions you were on … it puts you back into that war mood that you haven't been in -- in a long time and don't think about that often," said Hapke.

Dave Smith is chairman of Honor Flight San Diego. He loves watching the veterans as they see their memorial for the very first time.

"The veterans finally realizing how much they're appreciated for what they have done and what it meant for the freedoms we all share today," said Smith.

Hapke and his fellow veterans will return to San Diego on Sunday afternoon. Their plane will be welcomed home with a water cannon salute.

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